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Student tweeter doesn't have to apologize to Gov. Sam Brownback

November 28, 2011 | 10:44 am

Emma Sullivan tweets on her decision not to apologize to the Kansas governor.

A Kansas school district on Monday backed away from any action against a high school senior who sent out a tweet that put Gov. Sam Brownback in a less-than-flattering light.

In a statement emailed to reporters, the Shawnee Mission School District said it had reviewed the events and had decided to acknowledge that “a student's right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected.”

In this case, the student in question is high school senior Emma Sullivan. While attending a Youth in Government program at the state Capitol last week, Sullivan had sent out a tweet to her handful of followers: “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person,” she wrote.

The tweet was noticed by the governor’s staff, which complained to the program. Eventually word filtered down to the school district, and the principal ordered Sullivan to write a letter of apology by Monday.

Sullivan, 18, refused.

She has subsequently become an icon for parts of the liberal blogosphere. Her number of followers on Twitter has risen to more than 7,400, more than double the conservative governor’s.

In its statement Monday, the district sought to bow out of the issue.

“The district has not censored Miss Sullivan nor infringed upon her freedom of speech. She is not required to write a letter of apology to the Governor. Whether and to whom any apologies are issued will be left to the individuals involved,” the district said.

In a nod to the temper of the times, the district also gave the kerfuffle an educational spin.

“The issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media,” according to the statement. “The district does not intend to take any further action on this matter.”

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-- Michael Muskal

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